Bethel Park grads make CD for high school teacher

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Recent Bethel Park High School graduates Drew Gaffron and Nick Pilotta wanted to leave an indelible mark on their high school careers. For the past six months, they’ve collaborated on a CD project that commemorates the ups, downs and everything in between of their high school experiences.

The 10-song CD of original music entitled “Something of the Past” was released June 8 at midnight during Mr. Gaffron’s graduation party. The CD was released independently on and is available for $8.99 on the iTunes, Amazon, Xbox Music, Google Play and CD Baby websites.

Mr. Gaffron wrote and performed the songs, which he described as a combination of rock, pop and acoustic, and plays all the instruments on the CD – electric and acoustic guitar, bass, drums, mandolin, lap steel guitar, piano, synthesizer and harmonica. Classmate Channing Johnson also provided vocals for the final track.

The CD was produced and recorded by Mr. Pilotta in a recording studio he built in his bedroom. He also served as Mr. Gaffron’s voice coach, wrote harmonies, sang backup vocals and did the photography and CD cover artwork.

The two have known each other since fifth grade, but Mr. Gaffron said it wasn’t until they had a Music Theory class together in 10th grade that they started talking music.

Mr. Gaffron’s longtime dream to make a CD became a reality last summer when his parents gave him recording equipment, so he sought Mr. Pilotta’s help to produce and record a five-song demo CD. They then decided to expand the project and make something memorable that they could call their own.

When the project came to a standstill a few months later, Mr. Pilotta said a brief conversation with their music teacher, Jonathan Derby, gave them the push they needed to finish the album.

“I told them they have an extreme amount of talent and to keep doing what they’re doing,” Mr. Derby said. “My best advice to them was to stay focused and not let distractions get in their way. The sky’s the limit.”

Mr. Derby continued to advise them throughout the project, providing feedback and loaning them his bass guitar.

Now in his sixth year at the high school, Mr. Derby was instrumental in the creation of the new Music Technology Lab, including a recording studio and the ability to record from all of the music rooms. Mr. Derby also expanded the course offerings from Music Appreciation 1 and Music Technology 1 to now include Music Technology 2 and AP Music Theory.

Mr. Derby said he wants his students to know that a career in music is not just performing but can include work behind the scenes, such as composing, writing, or recording.

Mr. Gaffron and Mr. Pilotta described making the CD as their greatest experience and credit Mr. Derby with his honest appraisals.

“I wouldn’t have wanted any other opinion rather than his,” Mr. Gaffron said. “He’s just as passionate as we are.”

This fall, Mr. Gaffron will study Music Business at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., which will expose him to the inner workings of the music industry, including legal and copyright issues, producing, and marketing with the ultimate goal of becoming a performing artist.

Mr. Pilotta will attend Full Sail University in Winterpark, Fla., to become a recording engineer. He earned a $25,000 scholarship from the school based on the tracks he recorded with Mr. Gaffron and during his music classes at the high school.

Mr. Pilotta has been active in the high school’s music program, including lead roles in the high school musical productions the past three years, but wants to focus his attention on music engineering.

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Shannon M. Nass, freelance writer:

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